Plundering My Own Fabric Horde

So, how are things going with my writing and sewing projects? Well, despite the slow start, they’re going surprisingly well. I’ve made it a point to dedicate one hour each night to each project (I even have time to get in an hour of Sims, too!), and that’s keeping me well on track. I’m also getting 45-60 minutes of writing in at lunch every day, and between the two sessions, I’ve been more than making my daily word counts. I’m still hopeful that I will have my story done by the end of November.

I have to admit that I feel like an old pro tackling NaNo. I’ve conquered it three times (and failed it once), and I’ve had a lot of practice writing in between years. Working on a story that’s already somewhat plotted, I can write 800-1,200 words in an hour. Once, 1,667 words a day seemed like a monumental task, but now I can toss that out in my spare time without thinking anything about it. The old adage about things getting easier the more you practice applies to writing as well.

(And if it’s true that everyone has a million words of crap in them, I’m getting close to reaching that goal as well! My fanfic is over 300,000 words, and each of my books come in at 100,000 to nearly 200,000 words each (pre-edit). Not even counting blog posts, I think I’ve probably hit that goal. So maybe everything I write from now on will be gold! LOL)

As requested, here are some pictures of my sewing project. These are the pants.

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I put a boot on one leg so you can see how it’s supposed to blouse over the top of the boot.

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A close up. Pleating the leg to the cuff was a bitch, but it looks fab!

The fabric is a light sage-green flannel that is so nice and soft. And because these pants are so loose (I have them pinned tightly to my dummy; they’ll be even looser on my husband), they should be really comfortable to wear all day.

I ended up changing my mind about the color scheme when I found this fabric in the back of my closet. I’m still going to use the dark green linsey-woolsey for the coat (it will contrast nicely with these light pants), but I’m going to use some more found fabric–a dark gold cotton twill–for the tunic. It’s not as colorful as I initially wanted, but it pairs well and I already had all of it. (And someone gave me the gold fabric, so it didn’t even cost anything.) I’m going to do some quickie embroidery on the tunic for a little splash of color, then there will be the fox fur on the coat.

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A reminder of what I’m aiming for.

It’s a Blog Post about Nothing!

So, how did my weekend go?

I did no work on my fanfic and no work on the hubby’s Viking outfit. I did, however, (at the last minute and at great expense) put together my group’s newsletter (a needful thing, since it was due Monday) and I built the most awesome medieval house for my Sims ever!

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Now, you might legitimately ask, “How does building the most awesome medieval house ever further this month’s goals of making a Viking outfit and completing your fanfic?”

It doesn’t.

Of course, I could make the argument that I’ve been really busy lately and wasn’t recovered from last weekend’s demonstration and campout, and therefore I needed to sit on my ass and do mind-numbing tasks like scour The Sims Resource for blacksmith tools (found an anvil and hammer, but no forge) and laundry room supplies (found the mother-load!).

But that would sound like an excuse.

I could also make the argument that the Sims can actually be a great tool for writers because it allows you to design houses and other buildings that only exist in your head. Houses contained solely in the head are often vague and incorrectly proportioned; putting them “on paper” (if you will) allows you to correct design flaws and have an actual model to work from; your descriptions will be richer.

But the house I built doesn’t exist in any of my novels.

So, yeah, I totally goofed-off this weekend. And I don’t feel the least bit remorseful; it felt good to do a lot of nothing after doing a lot of everything; I wish I could have one more day of doing nothing. It was the ultimate in introvert recharging. Hopefully it will now give me the boost I need to knuckle down on my sewing and writing projects.

Speaking of which, I wasn’t totally unproductive on the writing front since my last post; Friday, during my lunch hour, I made a new…

Wait for it…

…Bloodsuckers episode!

Are you ready for the catch? (You know there’s a catch; if I had an episode ready, I would have posted it instead of this.)

It’s out of sequence. As is typical with me, I’ve written a scene in advance. I still have to go back and reread the series (because I’ve forgotten parts of it) and pick it back up with Scott meeting Josie’s parents for the first time at Hanukkah. The main reason why I stopped working on the story when I did was because I have no idea how to roll with that scene. It’s obviously going to be ugly, but it needs to be so ugly it’s good. I have high expectations, since I feel that the Halloween episode was the best one of the entire series; Scott meeting Josie’s parents should be no less great.

In other words, I’m paralyzed by my own sense of perfection.

But, if I can ever get over that hump, I’ll be good for a little while, because I’ve actually got several future episodes lined up and waiting in the wings.

With my fanfic hopefully off the table by the end of the month, we shall have to see if we can’t make December’s goal resurrecting The Bloodsuckers.

(You know, for a hare-brained idea born out of a concept for a sitcom based on the crazy stuff that happened in the law office where I worked, I’m really surprised at how well-received the series has been. People that I would have never expected to like something like that—like my mother and vampire-hating friend, Carla—frequently badger me for new episodes. People I barely know will randomly say, “I read your Bloodsuckers; when are you going to write more?”

People just like the idea of a real, blood-sucking lawyer. Or maybe they like the idea of a good guy who has been down on his luck, but is trying to make the best of life. Scott is a vampire, but he’s also an everyman.)

Oh, and because I know you’re reading this, Michelle, I did re-read Imminent Danger this weekend (between anvil and laundry basket downloads). All I can say is the next book better involve a trip to Rakor and I think a baby at some point would not be remiss, either. What better way to make Eris and Varrin even more hunted than if she was carrying the ultimate in royal bloodline corruption? Just sayin’.

(And if you have no idea what I’m talking about, you should check out Michelle Proulx’s book, Imminent Danger and How to Fly Straight Into It. It’s a fun, romantic science-fiction romp. Michelle’s really great at imagining (and describing) aliens and I’m envious of her ability to create a believable anti-hero.)

I’m Still Alive

Work is crazy as I try to finish up all my outstanding projects and teach my attorney how to do all her paperwork and electronic filing. I have a lead on a job with another local attorney, so keep your fingers crossed.

I’m also only 277 words from finishing NaNo. It’s pretty ugly, since my word count is compiled from three partial novels and one partial essay, but I’ve actually made some good progress, especially on the third Acceptance novel (Sacrifice). And I’ve definitely gotten back into the habit of writing without worrying about editing. It’s good to recenter the old inner editor from time to time. Otherwise it can get out of hand.

And I’m completely in love with Scrivener. My grandmother gave me my Christmas money early, so I’m planning on getting the license for it. Last night I uploaded The Bloodsuckers into it. Yes, I’m going to start writing those again! I think Scrivener will help me with that since I have so many files now (29 and counting!) that it’s hard to find information I need. It will also help me organize things like character profiles, etc. It’s hard enough to keep up with everything when you’re writing a novel, but it’s even harder when you only work on said novel once a week.

BTW, when I put all of The Bloodsuckers into Scrivener–including some chapters I haven’t used yet– my word count was exactly 50,000. So it’s a novella and quickly approaching novel-length.

NaNoWriMo Update

I’ve been accomplishing quite a bit of writing for my third Acceptance novel, Sacrifice. I am well ahead of schedule with a little over 32,000 words. (That count is just for the purposes of NaNo. Of that number, some 6,000 belong in the dystopian novel that I started.)

Some of you are probably wondering why I’m not writing for book two. Well, for one thing, book two is already written. I’m in the editing stage of it, and while I plan on writing a few new scenes for it, for the most part it just needs to be edited–including having the word count reduced. So that’s not a good novel to work on while during NaNo.

Before I got the idea for the dystopian novel, I had planned on adding to last year’s romance novel, The Flames of Prague. It really only needs 35,000-40,000 words added to it, so it probably wasn’t going to be a winner, but I do need to get on fleshing it out if I’m to have any hope of publishing it next fall, as I had originally planned.

I’ve really, really been pleased with Scrivener; it makes it easy to switch between chapters and even novels. And now I don’t have to hunt through my many files to find my research, pictures, notes, etc.; the research board holds it all easily. That definitely saves time.

How are your own goals coming?

Writing: The Necessity of Striking While the Iron is Hot

I’ll admit it: last year, I cheated a bit on NaNo. I had a great idea for a historical romance (The Flames of Prague) and I was ready to write it a few days before November. So I did. (I did write far more than 50,000 words in 30 days, so in that respect, I didn’t cheat to win.)

The same thing happened this year. I had a great idea for a new story and I was all gung-ho to write it… about two weeks before NaNo started. Now,  some people say that waiting builds excitement and you’ll be more likely to stay committed once you start. I’ve even heard people say that if you want to start exercising and dieting, you should set a future date to do it, rather than do it right now. Planning for a goal is supposed to imbue it with importance, whereas if you decided to start on a whim, you’re just as likely to decide to quit on whim.

That’s a wonderful idea in theory. And maybe it works for some people. But it does not work for me.

I put off my new story for so long, I no longer have the interest to really start it. I’ve met my word goals so far, but I’m all out of steam.

I have a tendency to work on things in chunks; I can only concentrate on one thing at a time. Since I couldn’t write on my new dystopian story, I didn’t want to think about it, for fear I might get a good idea and then lose it (that commonly happens to me). So I found other things to think about–namely my Acceptance trilogy. And now, that’s all I have on my mind, and I’m worried if I don’t get those ideas down on paper, I might lose them. But if I succumb to writing on other books, I’ll never get this one picked back up (at least not in time to finish NaNo).

Which just proves something I already knew (and need to take to heart more often): I must always strike while the iron is hot. Because once it’s cooled, there’s no telling when I may get it hot again.

NaNo Mardi Gras

Today is Halloween. And for those of you who are NaNoing, it is your Fat Tuesday before Lent. Wear costumes. Party. Drink. Eat lots of junk.

Then, tomorrow, sober up and start your 30-day period of self-denial and hard work.

Except for Thanksgiving. That’s like St. Patrick’s Day–a freebie day. Eat, drink, and take the day off.

Sometimes when I think how good my book can be, I can hardly breathe – Truman Capote

Get Your NaNo Game Plan Here!

Are you gearing up for NaNo? Do you know what you’re doing?

Arghhhhh!!! No! Help Me With My Novel!

1. Brainstorm using the MACE or snowflake method. (You can do these independently or combine them with the plot cards in the next step.)

2. If you haven’t plotted your story yet, grab a deck of tarot cards, the free 1936 plot cards, or your Story Forge Plot Cards (I really recommend these). Heck, you can even use online tarot cards.

If you’re using your own tarot cards, you can use the usual spreads (basically do a tarot reading for your protagonist and any major secondary characters or the antagonist), or you can make up your own spread with the idea of creating a story.

Here’s a basic one:

Separate out the major arcana and the face cards from the minor arcana and make pile #1. The rest of the minor arcana (the numbered cards) make pile #2.

Shuffle both piles. Deal at lease two cards out of pile #1. These can represent your protagonist and antagonist. If you don’t want an antagonist, one of the cards can represent a major secondary character (best friend, parent, etc.), or it can represent your protagonist’s dark side–he is his own worst enemy. If you need to, you can reverse the cards to get one positive personality and one negative personality. Draw more cards if you want more characters. It doesn’t matter which card is which character–choose whatever seems good to you.

Put your protagonist card on one side and put the other characters in a vertical line opposite the protagonist. Now, draw cards from pile #2 and put each of them between the protagonist and one of the other characters. These dictate the relationship or circumstances between the protagonist and each of the other characters. (Feel free to reverse them depending if you need the relationship to be positive or negative.) Some cards may tell you what the relationship is like, while some will suggest a past or future incident or conflict.

By this time, you probably have some idea of how all of these characters and their lives can interact, but you can always draw another card from pile #2 to suggest an incident that ties everyone together. You can also draw cards to link the minor characters to each other.

Remember: The purpose of the plot cards is to suggest a story to you. You don’t have to use every card. You can draw alternate cards if you don’t like what you drew the first time. They don’t dictate what your story is; they just give you an idea to start with.

Example: I used the 1936 cards to plot a short story. The location was “a canyon,” but the rest of the cards suggested a controlling man and a relationship gone bad. I got an idea to make my characters hoarders and the setting was in their hoarded house (the story then becomes about the protagonist realizing that she’s not only unhappy with her life, but the biggest piece of clutter she has in the house is her husband). I put a nod to the “canyon” suggestion in the house, though, when I mention their junk towering in the living room like mountains with a little goat path running through it.

In other words, they do live in a canyon–a canyon of junk.

So, don’t be afraid to think way outside the box, use card suggestions as metaphors instead of literally, and go off script. Because there is no script; there is only your imagination.

Prepare for Opening Day

1. A lot of NaNo bloggers advocate spending the last weekend in October pre-cooking meals so you don’t have to waste a precious hour every evening cooking and don’t get stuck eating a lot of expensive (and bad-for-you) takeout.

Don’t start out like this. It will only get worse.

2. You might want to give your house a bit of a clean on that last weekend in October, too, because, unless you’re a neat-freak or turn to cleaning as a way of procrastinating, your housekeeping is going to go by the wayside in November. Try Flylady’s Emergency Clean Up List for help.

Even if you don’t give your house a once-over (I really think you should), do at least start with a clean, organized desk, stocked with scratch paper, pens, and some sort of calendar. This will give you space to write yourself notes, eat (oh, yeah, you’ll be doing that at your desk), and lay all of your research materials. If you start with a messy desk, the pile will only get worse and you’ll waste time looking for your lost notes and office supplies.

Start with this.

3. I’ve also seen it recommended that you put together some music to write by. I strongly recommend that you listen to wordless music while writing, because it can be hard to make up your own words when someone is screaming theirs in your ears. Try some of Pandora’s stations like spa radio, nature sounds, or piano or classical music. (Personally, I like Enya and new age-type music.)

In addition to this, though, you might want to compile some music to set the mood. Sometimes you need to get emotional while writing a scene, or maybe certain songs make you think of your characters or plot and you want to listen to them while you’re not writing (e.g. while you’re commuting) to keep you thinking and in the mood.

For instance, over on YouTube I have Cryin Music, Fightin Music, and a playlist just for Acceptance (I have started some other mood lists on my YouTube channel in case you’re interested).

4. Place pens and paper in strategic places. Michelle Proulx suggests taking the reading material out of the bathroom and replacing it with a notebook and paper. I like to keep a notebook beside my bed and in the car for when I get a great idea or great dialogue is running through my head. (If I don’t write it down ASAP, my brain will erase it.) You might want a notebook at work, or you might put a small notepad in your pocketbook or carry it in your pants pocket.

Get Ready. Get Set. Go!

1. Get on the NaNo forums for help and encouragement and commiseration. Also, most metropolitan areas have a local NaNo group. I’ve been to several meetings over the past few years, and everyone in my group has been very nice. And it’s like introverts’ paradise; I think everyone in my group is an introvert, which means it’s perfectly okay to not make eye contact with anyone else.

While the forums are great, don’t dismiss the benefits of in-person meetings to help keep you on schedule, get past writing blocks, critique your work, and to form networks for the future.

2. Use these tips to keep your writing going when you get stuck (and make it good).

3. I found this awesome writing planner if you need help planning writing goals (works well post-NaNo to keep you writing and editing).

4. Scott H. Young has all sort of tips on his blog about getting more done in less time. In today’s newsletter, he talked about the fact that energy (willpower) is something which is finite. (I had similar thoughts about energy a while back.) Rather than telling yourself that you’re going to study or work on some project all day, it’s better to schedule small blocks of time and then stop.

If you want to do 50,000 words in a month, then you need to average 1,666 words per day. That’s approximately three 8.5 x 11″ pages. Just three pages of writing… doesn’t sound like too much, does it? How long do you think it would take you to write that if you knew ahead of time what you wanted to write? An hour?

If you have a lot of time constraints in your life (full-time job, small children, etc.) schedule yourself a time to write every day. Working in the morning, before everyone gets up, might be your best bet, but maybe you could get in an hour after the kids go to bed, or write during your lunch hour. Whatever it is, make your writing time sacred (“Do not disturb me between these hours unless the house is on fire or someone’s dead”) and when your time is up, stop–even if you haven’t met your quota.

Click pic for a link to a good blog on dealing with stress and finding work/life balance.

That sounds counter-intuitive, but if you’re so stuck you can’t write three pages in an hour (or however much time you allot), you’re not likely to get anything useful out of another hour (or three). Your mind is probably just going to wander and you’re going to sit there playing Solitaire. You might as well give up the enterprise for the day and do something useful with your time.

When you’re not writing, be thinking about what you’re going to write next. This is why you stashed notepaper everywhere before NaNo started: when you get an idea, write it down and save if for your writing time. The hope is that you’ll be mentally prepared for your writing time, so when it’s time, you will be able to sit down and do nothing but write.

(Personally, I’m of the opinion that if you’re on a roll, it’s okay to go past your writing time. Just recognize that, once you run out of steam, you need to quit. Don’t keep sitting there staring at the screen or goofing off.)

Because you might not meet your quota every day, you might want to schedule an extra session during the week. This will probably be on the weekend, when you have more time, but maybe your spouse and kids would like to go out one night during the week and give you an extra hour or two home alone, and this can serve as your make up time. Or maybe you will go out to the weekly NaNo write-in, which usually lasts 2-3 hours. (And, even if you get stuck, you can talk to people who might get you unstuck.)

Speaking of stuck: don’t be afraid to skip around. I almost never write from beginning to end; I write as I have ideas, then patch them together into a quilt later. So if your current scene is dead in the water, but you have an idea for something that will happen later in the storyline, go ahead and start it. Working into the future can help give you ideas for the past, because the past will need to be constructed to set up the future.

5. To keep yourself on task (and to make yourself quit when it’s time), try using a timer. You can use an online timer or download one to your desktop (I just d/led this one and I already like it; I’ve been using the online version for years) . If you’re writing on paper, use an egg timer, your cell phone (most have a timer widget), or, if you’re in hearing range, the timer on your stove or microwave.

If an hour seems like a really long time to sit still and write, break it up. Spend 30 minutes–or even 15 minutes–writing, then take a 15 minute break. Use your break time to socialize online, do research, or just get up and walk around.